My husband and I disagree about posting pictures of my teenage daughter on Facebook. I believe that he should ask my daughter's permission first. No teenage girl wants an unflattering picture posted of her, especially by her dad. I feel that he does not understand how sensitive teenage girls (and women) are about their looks. He believes that if the picture looks good to him, then he doesn't have to ask. He is a heavy Facebook user and I, myself, am often aggravated by his constant posting of pictures of me. He takes offense and believes I should actually be flattered by his affection. How can I make him understand that it's just plain respectful to simply ASK before posting a photo?
What a terrific question, and one I know many readers will relate to. It's one thing to be a teen and have your parents share photos of you with family friends by forcing them to look through photo albums or sit through a slide show of your most recent ballet performance. But it's another thing altogether to have what you consider to be unflattering photos posted for all the world to see -- literally! Here are my thoughts:
• First and foremost, don't try to control what your husband does. The more you push against him, the greater the risk he'll dig in his heels and hold fast to his position. Avoid coming AT him, or attempting to "parent" him by telling him that what he is doing is wrong. It will only make things worse.
• Strengthen connection. It may seem indirect, but the truth is, the more we humans feel appreciated and liked by someone, the more inclined we are to do what they ask. Make sure that the overall connection you and your husband share is loving and strong. If there is chronic tension or discord, he will be far less receptive to your input about his Facebook activities.
• Invite your husband and daughter to sit down together for a heart-to-heart talk. Ask each of them if they will simply listen to one another for three or four minutes without interrupting, correcting or making noises or facial expressions that suggest that they disagree with the other's point of view. At the end of the three minutes, ask the listener to repeat three things the speaker said in a way that prompts them to say, "Yes." Then ask them to switch roles, allowing the other person to tell their thoughts and feelings about posting the pictures, and asking the listener to then repeat three things that were said so that the speaker says, "Yes."
The goal of this exercise -- which I call The Three Yesses -- is simply to allow each person feel heard, which is always the first step toward solving a problem.
Dad might say, "I don't see what the problem is. I just love you and I'm so proud of you. I want to show the world what a talented dancer you are, so I share the photos. I don't see what the big deal is! And you look great!"
Daughter might then say, "One thing I heard you say is that you think I look great. I also heard you say that you think I'm a really talented dancer. And you are very proud of me."
Each time your daughter accurately restates something her father said, he would say, "Yes." This is of course just a quick example, but hopefully you get the idea. And of course, you can ask also use this exercise with your husband to share your views about the pictures he posts of you, as well!
• Allow time for change. After doing the Three Yesses exercise, there is a good chance that your husband will better understand your daughter's feelings and cut back on posting photos of her without her permission. But give him at least a few days to absorb what she said and voluntarily change his posting patterns. Again, if you try to force him, you may succeed in getting your way, but may add to tension.
Some readers may have strong feelings about this topic. It could be said that Dad is invading his daughter's privacy by posting pictures of her without permission; indeed, a mom recently called me for help because she was struggling with the fact that her former spouse's new girlfriend was posting pictures of her kids online. It is a complicated issue, and one we are all still navigating without clear guidelines.
Regardless, the more you foster genuine understanding between your husband and his daughter, the more natural it will feel for him to respect her boundaries and sympathize with her sensitivities. Best of luck with this one!
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Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected. She is a family therapist, parent coach and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting. To learn more, visit her Facebook page or sign up for her free newsletter at ParentingWithoutPowerStruggles.com.